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Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Occupy Wall Movement:

Citizens United Backlash Picks Up Official Support From Occupy Wall Street,  New York Chapter from Huffington Post and Mike Sachs, 1-6-12

Efforts to amend the Constitution to declare that corporations are not people and money is not speech gained support in two notable New York forums this week. The New York City General Assembly of the Occupy Wall Street movement on Tuesday officially called for a constitutional amendment to overturn a controversial Supreme Court decision from 2010 . On Wednesday, a similar resolution passed the New York City Council.
Such an amendment would reverse not only the Supreme Court's 2010 opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations have the constitutional right to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections, but also its seminal 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which first established that money constituted speech for First Amendment purposes.
Beyond New York, the Los Angeles City Council almost a month ago and several other city governments across the nation have supported anti-Citizens United resolutions. MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan has launched a petition calling for an amendment that has pulled in nearly 300,000 signatures, and members of Congress have proposed various joint resolutions in the House and Senate to start the process from Washington.
The OWS NYC resolution states, "Be it resolved that the New York City General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street joins the millions of citizens, grassroots organizations and local governments across the country in calling for an Amendment to the Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights, and that the rights of human beings will never again be granted to fictitious entities or property."
On Dec. 30, the Montana Supreme Court added its authority to the Citizens United backlash by upholding the state's century-old ban on corporate cash in campaigns. The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Mike McGrath, described Montana's own history of corporate control over state government as sufficient justification for the ban's constitutionality. This fact-bound determination defied the U.S. Supreme Court's conclusion that independent electoral spending can never give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to reverse its Montana counterpart -- and any other court that chooses to follow Montana's lead. Unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court's composition changes in favor of those challenging Citizens United, the amendment process now gaining momentum remains a better option than litigation for those who want corporate money out of politics. 

From Dave Johnson at Huffington Post:  

What next in the Fight Over Who Our Economy Is for?

Who is our economy for, anyway? In the United States, We, the People are supposedly in charge, and our country and economy are supposed to be managed for the public good. But that isn't how things have been working out, is it?
Let's take a quick look at America over the last few decades.
We used to have a social contract. We invested in top-notch infrastructure (like the interstate highway system) and education (the best universities and research), and then tax the resulting gains at very high rates, to recirculate those gains for the benefit of all of us.
Broken Social Contract
Then the contract was broken. Starting in the 1970s a cabal of wealthy businessmen and conservative ideologues organized and funded an attack on We, the People government, manipulating public opinion and our political system, gutting the regulations and trade rules that protected us and our way of life, privatizing -- selling off things We, the People own -- and killing the tax-and-invest cycle so they could keep the gains from all of that prior investment for themselves.
Blanket Of Propaganda
To provide cover for the operation these agents of the 1% spread a thick blanket of propaganda, using every technique in the modern marketing book. They divided us by race, religion, gender, sexual preference, even pitting people who like quiche and lattes against those who like beer and sausage. To cripple potential opposition they infiltrated and fractured key institutions, and turned the public against the news media. They developed a professional career-path system that rewards those who play along with the corruption and destruction and punishes those who do not. To cripple dissent they used ridicule, shame and intimidation.
Destructive Choices Come Home To Roost
Since then things have steadily fallen apart. The infrastructure is crumbling. Unemployment is extreme. The country has very high debt. The trade deficit is extreme. Half of us are poor or nearly poor. Inequality is at the highest levels.
Bailouts For The 1%, Sell-Outs For The 99%
When things hit the fan it became clear that our country is no longer run for the good of We, the People. When it came down to it, a few got special treatment, the rest of us got... uh, less-than-special-treatment. (And weren't even kissed.)
When the financial crisis occurred Congress was told they literally had only hours to come up with hundreds of billions to bail out the too-big-to-fail banks, and they did -- with almost no conditions. We know now that the Federal Reserve also stepped up, providing trillions to the big banks, even hundreds of millions to bankers' spouses! State and local governments, institutions and smaller businesses? The unemployed and millions facing foreclosure? Not so much.
Plutocracy Not Democracy
They provided assistance for the giant financial institutions of the 1%. Instead of providing assistance to the 99% -- We, the People -- our government cut the things We, the People do for each other. It was made clear that this country is now a plutocracy, not a democracy.
System Of Control Breaking Down
It is clear where we are. But it is also clear that the system of control is breaking down. The elections of 2006 and 2008 shook the foundations. Democracy tried to reassert control. The behind-the-scenes system of lobbyists writing legislation that passes under cover of "studies" from corporate-front think tanks, telling us this is for our own good, propelled by a flurry of corporate-funded op-eds, stopped working. After the bailouts for banks / sell out for the rest of us, people started figuring things out. In response the 5-4 Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, flooding the system with corporate money.
Instead of stealth takeover masked by propaganda we now see blatant grabs of wealth and raw power poorly disguised. Now the control is in our faces every day. Even constant filibusters of acts that might helpWe, the People were no longer enough to keep a lid on. So now it is shutdowns, hostage-taking, refusal to follow laws, refusal to prosecute, threats to take down the government and/or the economy. Now more visible methods of suppression are in use -- batons, tasers and pepper spray.
Waking Up
Everyone has been frustrated, discouraged, betrayed, scared and angry but without a focus for action. Then came the Occupy movement, people actually showing up and showing how! It resonated. People responded, and the conversation of the country was pulled out of the propaganda fog, at least for a while.
Stephen Lerner, interviewed by Sarah Jaffe for AlterNet, discusses where we go from here, saying, "[I]t's an exciting feeling to see something a lot of people spent a lifetime hoping for --this kind of dramatic increase in activity that targets financial capital, those who really control the country." On Occupy Wall Street, Lerner says,
Everybody knows they're getting zapped by banks, and what's so good about Occupy is that it's put that front and center. The fact that they were in Wall Street, I think everybody forgets. It was not Occupy a park somewhere, it was the fact that it was in the middle of the financial district. And I think on an intuitive level, people all over the political spectrum understand that those guys are at the center of how the economy is organized in a way that doesn't work for most people.
On Wall Street's position in our economy,
I don't think people are mad at somebody who invented a product or founded a company. It's that people see that Wall Street is not productive. Their wealth and their riches, they do not come through any normal means -- they come through cheating and gambling and ripping us off, which I think troubles us in a different kind of way.
On today,
I don't think anybody should view a sort of holiday or winter lull in activity as a sign of anything. As people have said, movements ebb and flow, and whenever we look back, spring is the time that things take off again. It's really important that people not say "Oh, everything was front page news and now it's not." People instead should be stepping back, saying, "In three months we did more than anybody imagined we could do, now it's time to step back and figure out the next stage."
What Next?
Now comes the long slog of organizing people into focused action to take back our country from the 1%. Van Jones has been laying the groundwork, joining with and other organizations to organize the Rebuild the Dream movement, and its Contract for the American Dream. Please visit and get involved.
Organized labor is fighting, too, with new tactics and getting more people involved. They are focusing on labor's role in creating a middle class in America. The recent Take Back the Capitol demonstrations are a case in point. In conjunction with many local and national organizations SEIU brought unemployed people to the D.C. to occupy the offices of 99 legislators, asking for jobs programs and extensions of unemployment benefits. They also marched on "K Street" -- the symbolic center of lobbying activity.

Trumka told the audience that the right wing is "banking on an upside-down America for its path to political power." Trumka said that now is the time for "a mighty movement for jobs and a just economy," adding, "We won't stop fighting, shoving and kicking until everyone is back at work."

Up To Us
What happens next is up to us. Don't be discouraged. "The people, united, will never be defeated."
THIS is what democracy looks like. Here are Wisconsin protesters chanting: "Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS is what democracy looks like!"
From Seeking Alpha and Phil Davis. See Link Here.

'Twas The Friday Before Christmas

Really guys!
Don't we all have something better to do than watch the markets today?
I'm embarrassed for all of us. Even the crooks at the NYMEX are going home at 1:30 this afternoon, sacrificing an entire hour of losing money to us to be with their strippers. That's right ... we OWNED those people yesterday, hitting play after play after play on the oil futures, all based on our very simple premise that - If the crooks at the NYMEX want to pretend they want to buy a barrel of oil for $100 - we are very happy to promise to sell it to them.
Over and over they pretend to want to buy oil at or near $100 and over and over, as soon as we (real people) actually start accepting their offers - they quickly dry up and retreat - over and over and over again.
This is how you beat the scam artists: Call them at their game.
At 3 a.m. this morning, they jammed oil up to $100.23 and at 3:51, in member chat, we were able to jump in and short the oil futures (/CL) at $100 and by 5:30 we were out at $99.60. That may not seem like a lot but, at $10 per penny per contract - it buys a lot of Egg McMuffins.
As I'm writing this (7:35) we just caught another run up to $100 and already it's back to $99.66 on fake, Fake, FAKE trading. Yes, ALL THE TIME they are faking it. ALL THE TIME. It's a SCAM. Oil trading is a scam, a lie, a con - and it's played on the American people every single day and no one does a thing to stop them (except us).
Do they REALLY want to have 252M barrels of oil delivered to Cushing, OK, in February? No, of course not. Aside from the fact that Cushing can only physically handle, if it were empty (which it is not) 40M barrels a month - we are, in fact, EXPORTING oil products out of America as our usage of oil is down 10% from last year (see chart in yesterday's post). DESPITE a 10% reduction in refiner output, which helps to create an artificial shortage by the U.S. energy cartel so they can charge the American public much more for less - we still are at RECORD levels of oil and product storage in this country.

So why do the NYMEX traders pretend to want to buy February (front-month) oil for $100 a barrel when December 2014 barrels are trading at $91.37? Because the front-month pricing determines what U.S. consumers pay at the pump and even if the traders take a $10 loss on 250M barrels ($2.5Bn), that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the relentless price gouging at the pumps committed by the Evil Corporations that employ those traders.
Americans consume 11Bn gallons of gasoline a month along with 5Bn gallons of distillates and 7Bn gallons of other products. Last year (when we consumed 10% more), a gallon of gas was selling for $2.98 and now it's $3.23, up .25 - that may not seem like a big deal but multiply that by 23Bn gallons and you have $5.75Bn of excess profits (and that's giving them that $2.98 is "fair" in the first place) stolen from the American people EVERY MONTH. And don't worry about the oil cartel - they aren't losing $10 a barrel at the NYMEX, maybe a dollar or two on average but worth every penny of $500M to have an excuse to charge consumers an extra $5Bn each month, right?
The underlying problem in the oil market and in the broader market in this country is that ordinary Americans are now seen as a resource to be exploited by those who are in power – by the wealthy and by those with political influence. We’re seeing Washington and Wall Street working so closely together that you really can’t tell the difference between them anymore. The figureheads of each like to go back and forth between both locations, picking jobs, then switching and going back again. The government officials we are trusting and paying to look out for Americans are using those positions to get really nice, high-paying jobs in private-sector places, including Wall Street, that are effectively being used as bribes. - Leah Goodman, The Asylum

Last night, the White House finally forced Boehner and his Congressional posse to extend the payroll tax cuts (and Boehner's quote: "Why not do the right thing for the American People, even though it's not exactly what we want" is sure to be the official Republican slogan for 2012!) of $140Bn and NO ONE denied that $140Bn is a lot of money yet NO ONE does anything about the $400Bn PER YEAR that consumers are now paying for oil ABOVE what they paid just two years ago.
What's really sickening about being ripped off for $400Bn a year isn't just the 10,000,000 $40,000 jobs that $400Bn a year represents and it's not the $400Bn boost to consumer spending, not even counting the potential new wage earners - that would go to industries that actually do create jobs in this country - it's the fact that at least half of the $400Bn that the crooks at the NYMEX are stealing from us every year ($2,850 per tax-payer) is being sent overseas and tens of billions of those dollars go to fund the very people who are killing our troops overseas as well as forcing us to spend countless hundreds of billions of dollars more to defend ourselves against people who buy our own weapons with our money to use them against us. And then, THEN THEY USE THE WARS AS A REASON TO RAISE THE PRICE OF OIL - MADNESS!
So Merry Christmas to all the corporate crooks and their pet politicians who are selling this nation and its once-proud people down the river to line their own pockets. Forcing people to overpay for necessities like food, fuel, housing and healthcare has created the largest wealth gap in recorded history for a developed nation. Our Gini Score (income inequality) of 41 is certainly better than Botswana's 60 but a far cry from Canada or Japan's 25. Even Bangladesh scores a 31 while our neighbors in the low 40s include China, Congo, Cambodia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar and Mother Russia.
Even Pakistan manages to score in the low 30s because, they may be poor, but the top 1% don't have all the money. Our top 1% have 40% of the money - that's pretty bad - that IS NOT SHARING! Isn't Christmas supposed to be all about sharing? Unfortunately, as sickening as these statistics are, they are getting worse. Our score of 41 was last officially measured in 2000 but the estimates are that things in the US have gotten 10% worse (or better if you are in the top 1%) since then and our score is now 45 - one of the 10 worst on Planet Earth.
Or, if you are in the top 1% - one of the 10 best, right?
Go ahead, ask any warlord in Zimbabwe (rank 50) or Congo (47) and they will tell you that NOTHING needs to change. It's the greatest country in the world when you are the one at the top - just like America!
Princeton political scientistLarry Bartels studied the voting behavior of U.S. senators in the early '90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else. By itself, that's not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don't respondat all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that's not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democraticsenators don't respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all!
It doesn't take a multivariate correlation to conclude that these two things are tightly related: If politicians care almost exclusively about the concerns of the rich, it makes sense that over the past decades they've enacted policies that have ended up benefiting the rich. And if you're not rich yourself, this is a problem. First and foremost, it's an economic problem because it's siphoned vast sums of money from the pockets of most Americans into those of the ultra-wealthy. At the same time, relentless concentration of wealth and power among the rich is deeply corrosive in a democracy, and this makes it a profoundly political problem as well.
Just something to think about as you get together with your family for the holidays. Perhaps you are all rich and successful and this is all very funny to you but perhaps, just maybe - if you look around the family table - you might realize that people who have the same background as you, with the same opportunities as you, through no fault of their own other than slightly different circumstances - are not as successful as you are. Maybe, just maybe, if you can see that - you can see how our society as a whole may be skewing a bit too far to the right and perhaps, just maybe - you may see it fit to resolve to help change that in the new year.
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. -Ecclesiastes 5:10
Have a very happy holiday.